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Curl Up for the Olympics

I love the sport of curling, and it makes me sad that it only gets big air play during the winter Olympics.  I made a little list of the compelling reasons to watch:   

1.  It’s a game of precision, accuracy and strategy.  Like its summery cousins bocce and shuffleboard you have to adjust your play to your opponent’s last move.  Unlike the style of the summer games my Nap compadres play, Olympic curlers (traditionally) are not holding beers in their free hands during competition. 

2.  You don’t have to be younger than 25 to be a contender.   In this sport wisdom and experience are more valuable than speed or physical stamina. Which is really just a nicer way of stating my favorite old proverb, “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”

3.  It’s a game of exceptional sportsmanship.   There is no heckling of the opposing team and conceding is considered good form.  “Broomstacking”  after the match – where the winners buys the first round – is a wonderful custom.

4.  It was invented by the Scots as a nice game to play outside in the cold weather.   What 16th century mother wouldn’t like a sport that gets her entire clan outside and out of her hair for a few hours of peace and quiet?

5.  I like any team sport where you need special shoes and matching pants that don’t require cutting weight.  Check out the snappy Norwegian Men’s Team and their sartorial offering below.  Quite snappy. 

Image from The Guardian
Image from The Guardian
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Every Four Years

I have a complicated relationship with summer Olympic Games.  Despite all the hoopla about the international spirit of competition and celebrating these elite athletes who train for years in obscurity for their few moments in the sun, it feels more and more like a popularity contest and months-long marketing campaign to sell some mundane consumer products.  Sure, I enjoy looking at athletic men in their little Speedos as much as the next person, and I admire the amount of effort it takes to shave off one-thousandth of a second to create a new world’s record, but I don’t see how buying baby lotion or laundry detergent ties in.  (I’m talking to you, Proctor & Gamble)

But I’ll end up watching some events… like the marathon, because I don’t know very many people who can run 26 consecutive miles.  And it’s lonely to run that long. Heck, sometimes it’s lonely to DRIVE that long.   You really have to be mentally tough and comfortable up in your own head to run like that every day.  I guess it’s a bit like being a writer:  you have to be able to sustain the effort even when logic tells you that nobody would care if you just stopped right now and had a cheeseburger and nap.  But I did find an interesting little article back in May about ten games worth bringing back to the Olympics.  It was written by Victor Mather, and appeared in the New York Times of May, 22, 2012.  ( link here for anybody interested in the whole piece).  I summarize them below:

10. Twelve Hour Bicycle Race:   A real endurance test.  My butt hurts thinking about it.

9. Softball:  “Recently” dropped in 2008, but worth watching for the pitching.

8. Cricket:  Americans can’t understand it, but there’s no reason why we can’t learn.  Matches can last for days so that counts for endurance.

7. Sixteen Man Naval Rowing Boasts with Coxswain:  Just how BIG would these boats be? Just how BIG would these rowers be?  (My mind goes to 16 Armie Hammers from The Social Network)

6. 200-meter Swimming Obstacle Race:  Urban training in polluted waterways would be an advantage.

5. Tandem Bicycle, 2000 meter sprint:  Just picture it…. speed and 2 riders on one bike…. and 8 teams on a track.  Sounds more like an event for The Hunger Games.

4. Javelin, Both Hands:  Means each athlete gets 2 throws; one with each hand.  The Ambidextrous get their own event!

3. Dueling Pistols:  This only happened in the 1906 Games and the participants shot at a dummy… maybe this one should be a “pass?”

2. Cross-Country Race: Sort of like the marathon already?

1.  TUG OF WAR!!! Come on, who wouldn’t want to watch, and everybody can relate to it.  I propose the following rule:  each country can have up to 10 athletes from any discipline but the combined weight of a team can’t exceed 1000 lbs. And they have to compete barefoot.  And everybody gets a medal, OK?  Just because it’s fun.  And a cookie.